Are we heading for another Greek debt crisis?

Eurozone vs. EU: what's the difference?

Eurozone vs. EU: what's the difference?

How is it for Déjà Vu? Another debt crisis is brewing in Europe.

Greece needs European creditors to release cash from a bailout package that was agreed in 2015 to pay back the debt, but officials are controversial. Investors are starting to worry and are demanding higher yields on Greek debt.

Confusion is exacerbated by the International Monetary Fund's warning that Greece's debt is unsustainable and on an "explosive" path. This assessment prevents the fund from participating in a rescue.

The timing could hardly be worse. The European heads of state and government have a lot on their plates. Elections are pending in the Netherlands, France and Germany. The Brexit negotiations begin within a few weeks.

However, the danger that Greece will exit the euro requires attention. Here's why the next few weeks will be key:

Hammer to fall

Greece is out of cash, but has to make repayments to creditors, including the European Central Bank. Important bills are due in July.

If Greece cannot make the payments, it will be in default and leave the euro area.

In the meantime, the last bailout – the third since 2010 – has been practically frozen. The key players' negotiating positions are further apart than at any time since the rescue package was agreed in June 2015.

There are even disagreements about the extent of the problem that Greece is facing.

"The IMF's recent review of Greece's debt situation has been surprisingly pessimistic," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, who chaired the meetings of leading euro area finance officials. "It is surprising that Greece is already doing better than described in this report."

I want it all

The IMF, Greece and the creditors led by Germany have very different priorities. Here's what everyone wants:

The IMF has urged Greece to make more ambitious changes to its economy, including labor market reforms. The IMF did not participate in the third bailout when it first reached agreement in 2015 because it did not consider Greece's debt to be sustainable. It continues to be claimed that Greece cannot be self-sufficient without comprehensive debt relief.

The main creditors of Greece agree that Athens should implement the reforms proposed by the IMF. However, they have categorically ruled out debt relief, as euro area finance officials reiterated on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shows no signs of giving in to calls for additional reforms. He insists that debt relief is required before making new concessions.

It's a classic stalemate and investors are watching which party is blinking first.

Put out the fire

The next major milestone is a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on February 20 – the last before the elections that will cloud Europe's political waters. Agreeing further grants to Greece will be even more difficult once voters vote.

After that, the bills are due. Greece will have to make a payment to the ECB of around EUR 1.4 billion at the end of April and another payment of EUR 4.1 billion in July.

The stake is high.

The unemployment rate in Greece is expected to be over 21% in 2017. Investments have decreased by more than 60% and production has decreased by more than 25% since the financial crisis. The country's social fabric is frayed.

If European creditors refuse further aid, Greece's debt will get out of control, no matter how fast the economy grows, according to the IMF.

This leaves only one option – the waiver of the euro.

Ted Malloch, President Trump's expected election for the US ambassador to the EU, told Greek television Tuesday that the future of the eurozone will be decided in the next 18 months.

"There will certainly be a Europe, whether the eurozone survives, I think it is very much an issue that is on the agenda," he said. "I think this time I have to say that there is a higher chance that Greece will break out of the euro itself."

CNNMoney (London) First published on February 8, 2017: 12:27 PM ET